Non-Defense Share of Federal Spending Heads to 50-Year Low

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Regardless of whether it’s the Democrats or Republicans who win the current budget deliberations, Congress is on course to spend a smaller share of the nation’s economic activity on non-defense programs than it has in half a century.


Discretionary spending is that portion of the federal budget that has to be approved by Congress, as opposed to mandatory spending, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the national debt. Historically, half of discretionary goes to the military and half goes to such non-military programs as government operations, law enforcement, education, transportation, national parks, research, and welfare assistance. It is this non-defense discretionary spending that is projected to reach its lowest level since 1962.


“Historically, those nondefense discretionary programs have accounted for about one-fifth of all spending,” Niraj Chokshi wrote at the National Journal. “But, as a share of economic activity, that spending is about to dip to its lowest levels since 1962” by the year 2017.


What’s happening is that appropriations for these programs are not growing for the most part, which can be attributed to Republican efforts to reign in government spending.


Democrats and Republicans have released competing budget plans, and while the Democratic one is a little more generous, it will still result in a decades-low share of spending, according to Chokshi.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Nondefense Slice of Domestic Spending on Track to Hit 50-Year Low (by Niraj Chokshi, National Journal)

Left and Right Unite in Call for Congress to Cut Defense Spending (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Disconnect: Public Wants Cuts in Defense Spending; Democratic and Republican Leaders Don’t(by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


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